The Body Snatcher

JANUARY 31, 2008


My Val Lewton marathon (of sorts) continues...

I hope anyone else who recorded this marathon literally recorded the entire thing (if they used DVR instead of old school programmed VHS) – the last 5 minutes of The Body Snatcher were cut off from the recording*. Luckily, as I recorded the next film that was on (Isle of the Dead, if memory serves), I only missed a few seconds. But now I’m guessing that Isle will have the same problem, and the end of THAT film will be on the beginning of the next one. The point is, I wish TCM and other cable stations would take DVR into consideration when making their schedules, or that cable companies would block their stuff in 5 minute increments instead of 15. Jerks.

As for the film itself, it’s pretty good, if nothing special. The other Lewton films offered up some pretty entertaining and somewhat unique stories, but this one seemed a bit familiar to me for whatever reason. I guess there just comes a time in every man’s life when he is bored by the idea of a grave robber turning to actually killing folks to drum up business.

Still, there were two things that stuck out. One is that I am pretty sure this was the first film to use ‘cut to the pet’ as a device in a murder scene. It’s been in lots of films – someone is being killed, and rather than show the carnage, the director or editor cuts to a shot of the victim’s (or in this case, killer’s) dog or cat (or bunny!) watching the scene, doing nothing at all to help (which is why a selfish goddamn cat works better than a loving and caring dog). Since the film has a pretty mean-spirited dog killing early on, it’s almost nice to see a human get killed while the pet is fine.

The other thing that was pretty awesome was the death of the street singer. Every few minutes, a scene would begin with this homeless woman belting out a tune. It started to get on my nerves, and literally 30 seconds after I said “Christ, kill HER”, she was indeed murdered by the killer (Boris Karloff himself!). And even though I welcomed her death, it’s an admittedly chilling scene, as is a later one of Karloff disposing of a body (Bela Lugosi!). Both of them are done off-screen, which is, when done well, usually scarier anyway.

This one was also directed by Robert Wise, who went on to direct The Haunting, a film everyone in the world except me finds really scary. I like this one better. Not only is it shorter, but I wasn’t expecting anything from it, nor has it been sullied by a truly bad remake by Jan De Bont.

What say you?

*If you’re one of the folks who missed the final few minutes, let me sum up: the older doctor guy begins hearing the voice of Karloff, and then becomes convinced that the woman they dug up was in fact Karloff’s body. He looks under the body’s sheet and sees that he is right! This sends him into a panic, and he screams, which scares the horse into running. The younger doctor guy falls out and gives a “Noooooo” as the horse and carriage carry on recklessly into the night. At one point, they separate, and the carriage (with the older doctor guy still in it) careens down a hill and crashes. Young doctor guy runs over and sees that the other doctor was just a right nutter, as the corpse really is that of the woman. YDG sort of shrugs and heads back up the hill, there’s a Hippocrates quote, and the movie ends.


Freaky Farley

JANUARY 30, 2008


Every now and then I watch a movie for Horror Movie A Day that, sadly, sort of defeats the purpose. An independent film with no formal release severely limits the number of readers who may have seen it, and thus have no way of talking about it afterwards. But I like to mix it up as well, hence why I decided to give Freaky Farley a look (one of the filmmakers contacted me directly asking if I’d like to do a review). So it sort of goes without saying that there’s a good chance I will spoil the movie – read at your own risk! (Note - the film is available to buy here)

What attracted me to the film was the filmmaker’s (and the DVD box art’s) claim that the film was inspired by Silent Night Deadly Night Part 2. I was pretty convinced that no one besides me would ever admit to such a wretched film being any sort of inspiration to them, so I felt a kinship with these folks. And the inspiration is evident early on – the first line Farley speaks is the same as the first one Ricky has in that film (“Are you married?”). In fact this entire scene plays out I think pretty much the same as one in SNDN2. Later, the imfamous “Garbage Day!” scene is homaged as well. Sweet!

The whole movie is a little odd, come to think of it. Our characters include ninjas and a guy who calls himself “Air Force Ricky”; our “hero” only wears black and white striped shirts (even his wifebeater has the same pattern), which suggests Jason Bateman as the Hamburglar; his dad makes him dig a hole and then refill it every day it seems; an old lady attempts to nail Farley in a motel, and a hobo goes on and on about “troggs” in the woods, and unsurprisingly, he’s not crazy. This sort of batshit storytelling and kitchen-sink attitude is always endearing to me, even more so when it’s an independent production (they’d probably have an easier time finding distribution if the movie was an easier sell – so kudos for not ‘selling out’!).

On the flipside, the acting in the film is pretty much across the board bad. And not campy bad either. Folks (particularly the mayor guy) stumble over simple lines, no one ever seems to pause in between ideas (or even each other’s dialogue – so if someone asks a question the response comes before the person would reasonably have time to think of an answer), etc. It’s really odd. With an indie you’re bound to have a few weak links, but here it’s pretty universal (Farley and the girl playing his would-be girlfriend are pretty good, however). Hilariously, my wife came into the room halfway through, not knowing what I was watching (at that point, neither was I – see below), and asked if the characters were retarded. Then again, I can't even play myself properly and know perfectly well that when you want to make a movie yourself you often have to fill roles with less than satisfactory "actors" (see: my short film, which I won't let you see), so it's easily forgivable. Like I said before, when I can tell that the people making the film have a genuine care about filmmaking and aren't just out to make a quick buck, I am more than willing to forgive a few faults.

The other thing about the film is that it moves rather slowly. Our first kill comes at the 55 minute mark. Other than the fact that Farley is telling the story from an institution, there is nothing “horror” about the film at all for until this point. Everyone in the town makes fun of Farley for being weird (or, to be exact, a “freak”), but it’s sort of unclear why, since he doesn’t really do anything strange as far as I can tell.

Still, I can’t help but kind of love a movie with a line of dialogue like “Children shouldn’t have to be frightened of mysterious deaths in the woods.” A little more rehearsal from the actors and a tightened first hour could have improved things greatly. As it stands, it’s an endearing little curio that I enjoyed watching for the most part, but probably won’t be for everyone.

And kudos to the filmmakers for using 16mm film! It fit the tone perfectly and kept the film watchable (had this been on DV I probably would have given up after 20 minutes or so) since it looks pretty good for the most part. There's an odd quality to 16mm that, despite maybe not looking as "good" as 35 mm, gives its films a feel that can't be reproduced with DV no matter what kind of filters you throw on it. Then again, as a film student from New England, I have an affinity for seeing 16mm footage of foliage and other NE-centric imagery. Takes me back...

What say you?


Sasquatch Mountain

JANUARY 29, 2008


Should I set up a new genre tag for Sci-Fi original movies? I mean, they’re all bad, but you gotta rate them on a totally different level. You can’t expect a movie like Sasquatch Mountain (called Devil on the Mountain on the film itself – whatever) to live up to all the great theatrically released Sasquatch movies, like... uh... you know, um.. the uh... guy there... with the fur and the things...

OK, as far back as I can recall (last Thursday), there are no good Sasquatch movies, theatrically released or not, except for Abominable. And that one works because it’s like a typical suspense thriller, albeit with a Sasquatch, and has some great gore gags and looks like it cost a hell of a lot more than it did. Interestingly, this film is similar to Abominable in a few ways. One, both have Lance Henriksen, a Howard (Clint in Abominable, here we get Rance), and a modern scream queen (Tiffany Shepis there, Cerina Vincent here). And both have great scores, for the record.

The other similarity is the surprising amount of character development and just genuine “giving of a shit” in the script. It would be easy to just have a bunch of folks get picked off one by one by a guy in a giant monkey suit (see, or not, Sasquatch Hunters), but instead writer Michael Worth took the time to give some backstory, play out some melodrama, etc. It’s not Shakespeare, but I must admit that seeing a touching man to man talk between Rance and Lance (hey they rhyme!) in the middle of a monster movie is endearing (not to mention the fact that it’s probably the only action/horror movie where the 3 male heroes have an average age of about 70).

Unfortunately, the filmmaking more or less puts all of their efforts in vain. For some goddamn reason, director Steven Monroe and DP Neil Lisk shot the film as if it were a lost Bourne sequel, with nonstop handheld camera, jerky zooms and pans, and horrendously overused blue filters:
That’s actually one of the more tolerable examples, some scenes legitimately look like you are watching them through Smurf poop. I don’t know why the felt the need to shoot the film this way, as it doesn’t really make any cinematic sense (shouldn’t the woods in the middle of the day look more orange?) and it just looks bad to boot. It may sound strange, but there’s actually a skill involved in giving a film an improvised feel; this skill is not evident here.

There’s also maybe a bit too much character stuff, and not enough monster. Maybe it was a budgetary limitation (the cast must have eaten a bigger than usual size of the Sci-Fi budget, since most of them are recognizable – Craig Wasson from Nightmare 3 and Tim Thomerson also stop by!), but there’s only about 5 minutes of sasquatch in the film. And these scenes are pretty much always the same: two characters begin fighting over money or whatever, and then the Sasquatch comes out and kills one or both of them. You start to get the impression that if everyone just mellowed out and got along, the damn thing would never show up at all. At least the Ice Spiders made their presence known throughout the running time.

Also, the DVD mastering tries its best to make you hate the film. The chapter selection menu doesn’t have a “back” option, so if you skip the page you want you have to go back to the main menu and start over. The presentation is non-anamorphic, not a big surprise, but even more detrimental than usual since the compression is atrocious:
And along with the afore-mentioned confusion over the name of the goddamn thing, it also begins with the credit “Curb Entertainment Presents” and then “A Curb Entertainment Production”. Redundancy aside, how do you present your own fucking production?!?!? Don’t waste my time with duplicate title cards!

The making-of featurette is surprisingly laid-back and features lots of ‘bloopers’ (including the guy playing the Sasquatch explaining that the beast is “half man, half human”). Thomerson tells the camera guy to fuck off, which is pretty awesome (then later he appears to be high). Lance is shown talking to the director about his character, which is sort of sad since the director is clearly more interested in adding blue filters to everything than making a film that lives up to the script and performances (which are pretty good across the board). For some reason, the clips in the making of are shown at 2.35:1 (which is the ratio the IMDb lists the film as having) when the film itself is 1.85:1 – but I investigated and found that the film itself has more visual information at the top and bottom than in the featurette, so you’re not missing any valuable blue imagery. Hurrah!

What say you?


The Seventh Victim (1943)

JANUARY 28, 2008


I really gotta stop reading descriptions about movies before I watch them. Until there’s such a thing as a spoiler warning on a plot synopsis, I always run the risk of knowing more than I’d like about a film, due to differing opinions on the difference between “plot” and “revelation”. Such is the case with The Seventh Victim, which, as far as I am concerned, is about a girl looking for her missing sister. That’s it. But Time Warner or whoever wrote the damn synopsis felt compelled to reveal exactly who/what took her sister, something that isn’t revealed until about 40+ minutes into the 71 minute film.

Of course, I spoiled it in the “Genre” tag, but whatever. No one pays me.

Ironically, the first 20 minutes of the film moved rather quickly, as the girl goes on her search pretty much in the 2nd or 3rd scene, and by the 20 minute mark has met a private investigator, visited the police, gone on a spooky search, seen a murder, etc. So I wrote down “Moves quickly!” and then literally as soon as I put the pen back down the movie began to slow down (I contemplated writing “not enough hardcore nudity and violence” to see if THAT suddenly changed, but I decided against it).

Part of the problem is that at this point in the film we are introduced to some 400 or so male characters: a shrink, a poet, another investigator, a doctor, yet another investigator, etc. They all seem to want to find the sister as well, not to mention totally tap the main girl. This results in a lack of focus – it’s like an ensemble film in which only one character’s storyline matters. Hell, the “heroine” even disappears for a large part of the climax, which is a bit odd (she’s not even present when all of the explanation about her sister is revealed!). Who is this movie about, anyway?

According to the always accurate Wikipedia (quoting a documentary on Val Lewton that aired along with all of these films on TCM – which I also recorded and will watch once I finish seeing all the movies since these docs tend to spoil the films more than a Time Warner synopsis could ever aspire to), a lot of scenes were cut from this one, and it sort of shows. People become important without really being introduced, characters disappear for long stretches, etc. And, as mentioned, there is no hardcore violence or nudity (that might be a stylistic choice though).

Still, it’s a pretty good film, and apparently has some ties to Cat People. So there’s something. The ending is pretty depressing/creepy, and I must admit I was surprised by it. And I like seeing old New York in movies for some reason. All in all, the best 71 minute movie I’ve seen! Wait, how long was Rise Of The Dead? I think that was 71 too. Oh well, this is top 5 at any rate.

What say you?



JANUARY 27, 2008


I would have loved to have seen the reaction of the person who had to read the script for Troll and then decide he/she would put his/her money into actually making the goddamn thing. How would a non-little kid or severely brain damaged adult react to reading “The little girl runs around the house yelling "Ratburgers!" and other nonsense, as the ex-mayor of Palm Springs explains that the kid’s noisemaking could impact his swinging lifestyle” (not a direct script quote)?

I’ll tell you how I reacted. I muttered “maybe I should watch something else”, but then the non-ex-mayor character revealed that his name was Harry Potter, which reminded me of the film’s unintentional notoriety. Yes, despite coming a good decade and change before JK Rowling’s internationally beloved tomes of Satanism and pre-pubescent sexual escapades (though I am told that the versions I read are in fact “slashfic” and not the real ones, something I have yet to investigate), the lead character in this ridiculously stupid movie is Harry Potter, a young lad who is given dangerous things to do by elderly batshit adults, fights monsters small and large, and dabbles in magic. Some folks accuse JK of stealing from this movie, but honestly, I’m sure she had better things to do than watch this goddamn thing.

The problem with the movie is that is apparently aimed only at ironic 20 somethings who saw it as a kid. A young kid would (or should) be a bit baffled about all the things that happen in the film (such as when a troll turns Julia Louis Dreyfuss into a tree and tries to fuck her, or something), but an adult would just be appalled at, well, the idea of a kid’s movie in which a troll tries to fuck a tree version of Julia Louis Dreyfuss.

Still, there’s something a tiny bit endearing about the whole thing. Early on, Harry Potter is looking for his sister, when he suddenly says, apropos of nothing, “Have you been playing with dead cats?” There’s also a midget who draws bunnies, a weeping mushroom, an old lady with an apparent chronic addiction to making pancakes, the aforementioned Sonny Bono as a swinger (he gets turned into a tree too, in fact just about everyone in this movie except for the Potter family turns into some sort of plant), a few trolls that are obviously paper mache puppets, etc.

And then, of course, there’s the song. The way this thing is worked into the film is nothing short of astounding. At first it’s just the film’s score, so we think nothing of it. Then, suddenly, softly, the trolls begin singing in hushed tones, which we see for a few seconds before cutting back to the midget guy delivering some exposition. Then the trolls go all out, belting out the lyrics (which I cannot understand for the life of me) in full force. It just sort of sneaks up on you, and then ends all too soon. That might sound like I am describing an orgasm, but really, that’s pretty much what this song is, albeit in John Carl Buechler-directed low-budget musical form.

Speaking of Buechler (who sort of appears in the film, in a painting), between this and Friday the 13th part 7 (the absolute worst of the Paramount era) I think it’s safe to say he should stick to makeup effects. And he should take Robert “Buried Alive, The Rage, and Wishmaster” Kurtzman with him.

What say you?


Shutter (2004)

JANUARY 26, 2008


Does the Asian world make any horror movies about vampires, werewolves, devil worshipping cults, killer dolls, etc? Other than Bloody Reunion and the occasional monster movie (The Host!), it seems every one of the Asian horror films I see -all of which are recommendations, including this one (by HMAD reader Secret Raconteur), and NOT based primarily on the fact that they seemingly all have American remakes - are about vengeful ghosts using some sort of ordinary device to haunt their victims. Shutter of course fits right in, what with a ghost appearing in some guy’s photographs and driving his pals to suicide. Come on guys, cars breaking down in the vicinity of cannibalistic rednecks must be a global problem.

This one’s got a couple of things going for it. One, it’s short, clocking in at 90 minutes or so (most of them hover near 2 hrs). Also, the story isn’t quite as fragmented as Ju-On or whatever; relatively speaking, it’s actually pretty logical and doesn’t leave you entirely clueless for an hour and then suddenly give you 10 straight minutes of exposition. So that’s a plus.

However, there are still a few issues. One is that the hero is not just flawed, he’s a downright asshole. You can extend the sympathy branch only so far, but this guy goes beyond that point, and simply making him slightly less of an asshole than his friends doesn’t quite cut it. Also, the movie is kicked off when him and his new girlfriend run over a woman in the street (thus beginning his assholity, as he demands they leave without helping her). Now, in typical Asian horror fashion, this means her ghost will be the one stalking him. Fine, but then we discover that she was his ex-girlfriend, and she’s not seeking revenge for being run over, but instead for something even worse that he did a year or so ago. Come on now. Not counting pranks gone wrong, how often do you know the person you accidentally run over and leave for dead? 67 out of 68 times it will be a total stranger.

Still, it delivers all the usual scares (ghost appears in the background, hero spins, she’s gone; an image of the ghost in a photo seemingly comes to life, etc.) so it follows the template closely enough to give the film enough merit (and by merit I mean, the remake is due this year). These movies are a dime a dozen, but if you haven’t seen any of the others this one is no better or worse a place to start.

Odd for a Tartan release, the extras are fairly slim. A few making of segments reveal what a dangerous production this was (every single one of them ends with the directors revealing how someone almost or easily could have died while trying to get the shot), and an interview. No deleteds or commentary. As generic as the movies themselves are, the extras on these are usually pretty fascinating, as our Eastern filmmakers are usually much more honest and direct than their ass-kissing American counterparts.

What say you?

HorrorBlips: vote it up!


Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde (1920)

JANUARY 25, 2008


I do believe that Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde is the first silent film for Horror Movie A Day. Hurrah! It’s a good thing I like endless, inappropriate orchestral music! What’s that? I don’t? Oh. Well it’s a good movie anyway.

Once I got over the depressing realization that everyone in the film is dead, this one was pretty enjoyable. I have never read the book or seen any of the other 478459 versions of this particular film, so I didn’t really know what it was about other than a guy turning into a monster and back at will. Luckily, at no point did he fight Hugh Jackman or team up with Sean Connery and some other folks, so there’s something. There’s even an impressive scare scene – the spirit of a spider crawls out of Jekyll, and then right back inside, turning him into Hyde. It’s pretty terrifying, because, well, giant spiders are terrifying.

I also got a lot of enjoyment out of things I shouldn’t. Such as the guy who pretty much sets Jekyll on his destructive path. After pondering whether or not he should use his left hand when he always uses his right (snicker), he says that the only way to avoid temptation is to give into it. Clearly this guy has some sexual issues. There’s also the idea that women would be charmed by Hyde, when he is, quite simply, a freak. He looks a bit like Bill Moseley in Chainsaw 2, yet a standard 1920’s movie woman (short curly hair, dark rings around her eyes) is completely smitten with his advances and pawing.

Also, the first time Jekyll becomes Hyde, he almost immediately reverts back to Jekyll. Seriously, maybe 30 seconds go by and he throws in the towel without as much as a single “oh hey look I have super strength now” or whatever scene. Kind of a bummer. I’m also a bit baffled by this image:

How does a horse looking at a drunk on the ground symbolize a free clinic?

And what the hell was with people’s ability to read back in the 20s? I had time to read every title like 3 or 4 times, easily. This movie would probably be about 10 minutes shorter if the editor had any faith in his fellow man’s ability to process “What is wrong, Jekyll?” in less than 20 seconds.

Still, it’s much better than the old Hunchback or Phantom films (also on this set, though watched pre-HMAD). Barrymore is pretty good, and all the actors do a good job emoting what is going on in between the subtitles. And as oft-huh? the music is, it’s pretty good. Also, the makeup on Barrymore is pretty good considering that the film occurred before there was even an Oscar for doing makeup effects!

What say you?



JANUARY 24, 2008


For over a year now, my buddy Ryan (from has been telling me to watch Feed, the long-awaited (by someone, I assume) return to filmmaking by Brett Leonard, who made a decent-sized name for himself in the 90s with The Lawnmower Man and Virtuosity, the film that is better than American Gangster in only one respect: having several scenes with both Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe instead of only one.

I think. I dunno; I forget most of that movie. The point is: I wish they had more scenes together in American Gangster.

You might wonder why I’m dwelling on other movies in my Feed review... well, that’s because Feed doesn’t give me much to write about. It’s an overlong bore of a film that has shock value, sure, but it wears off rather quickly. Seeing a fat woman devouring hamburgers while being videotaped for the internet may gross you out the first time, but by the 7th or 8th, you just kind of want the movie to move on. Sadly, it doesn’t. There is a slight variant when the killer tries unsuccessfully to pleasure himself while watching the woman smear cupcakes all over herself, but it’s simply not enough. The last thing I was expecting this movie to be was boring, but it’s the sad truth.

The problem is that the movie doesn’t really do anything with its concept, and if you replaced the fat feeding scenes with basic murders, you’d be left with the least interesting movie ever made. However, at first, this doesn’t seem to be the case. Early on, our sort-of hero (an asshole cop who looks like Daniel Baldwin from the side) discovers a man slicing off parts of another man’s anatomy and feeding it to him. Neither are being forced into it. Coupled with the fat woman/internet thing, I thought this would make for an interesting and consistently ‘shocking’ movie, as the cop discovers more and more abhorrent behavior in the world of “feeders” as he investigates a mystery. But other than this brief interlude, it’s strictly limited to the one fat broad, the killer (whose identity is revealed from the start), and the cop. It could almost be a play.

Further boringing matters is the fact that most of the killer’s rants are just variants of “I’m not the bad guy, SOCIETY is!” Again, the first time around, it might get you thinking, but by the time the screenwriter must have had to use a thesaurus to find enough words to make these soapbox “points” sound different from one another, you’ll be wanting to force feed yourself instead. And since our cop is kind of a dick anyway, the movie leaves us no one to really root for. Fucking kill em all, let me get back to my sandwich.

So the script sucks, but does it work on a visual level? Well, no. No it does not. Leonard keeps using ridiculous filters (usually yellow, though a blue one pops in a few times) for scenes, giving the film an unnatural look that doesn’t really service anything. He also uses a lot of smear focus lenses, so you can see the actor clearly but not the things right next to him, which again, gives the film no added meaning or value. The editor is also suffering from some sort of hyperactive disorder; with many jump cuts, speed ramps, avid farts, strobe edits... if it’s an annoying editing technique best used for an MTV special about Lohan or Paris, then you’ll find it in Feed.

The moral of the story is, of course, never listen to a guy who wanted to walk out of Dead Silence but didn’t even MENTION Halloween on his worst of the year list. Just listen to me, the guy who tells everyone to watch The Hitcher remake.

What say you?


Attack Of The Giant Leeches

JANUARY 23, 2008


Hot on the heels of The Giant Gila Monster comes Attack Of The Giant Leeches, another alleged monster movie which features a ratio of about 1 monster scene for every dozen or so involving middle aged guys standing around arguing with one another. This one even goes a step further, pluralizing leech when there’s only one in the film, so far as I can tell anyway.

Oh, and Corman produced it.

At 62 minutes you can’t say that the movie is too long (well, you can I guess, if you're a jerk), but the fact that it’s 62 minutes and almost 60 of them don’t feature any monster is kind of a problem. And unlike Gila, this time we don’t even get to learn how to change a tire or something in the process; these bland bastards just talk about whatever’s going on and whether or not they should do anything about it. Christ, it doesn’t even deliver on the age-old tradition of the “bad guy” getting his comeuppance from the monster. You know, he doesn’t believe the monster exists, thwarts the hero’s attempts to figure out what is going on, etc. and then at the end he gets eaten. Right? Not here. No, our doubting Thomas simply says “wow, never seen one of those before,” and shuffles out of the film along with a few other nondescript folks.

In fact, the entire climax of the film is the equivalent of a shrug. Our James Denton-y hero sets off an explosion which sends the Leech to the surface of the water, presumably dead. He just looks at it, saying nothing. A few other characters follow suit. Then the editor cuts to a few random establishing shots around the swamp, and finally THE END appears on screen. You know when you’re playing Rock Band by yourself, and you reach a part of the song that doesn’t require your instrument, so you’re just standing there awkwardly waiting? That’s the ending of this movie.

There’s also a lengthy sequence in which cops and others accuse a guy of killing his wife and her lover. They don’t believe his ‘giant monster’ theory, of course, so they send him off to jail. Then he kills himself out of despondence. The problem is, we know perfectly goddamn well that the monster really DID eat them, so all of this is pointless. Had there been some reasonable doubt they might have had something, but without it, it’s just padding.

Strangely, the Creek saw fit to present the film in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, one of only two in the entire Mill Creek pantheon (so far) that isn’t full frame. The problem is, the movie is SUPPOSED to be full frame – if you watch the MST3k version (even that takes a lot of effort to remain interested in this movie) you can see the difference. But whatever.

What say you?


The Wizard Of Gore (1970)

JANUARY 22, 2008


Last summer I went to see the remake of The Wizard Of Gore, and wasn’t exactly thrilled by it. I hated the main character, the sound design made me want to punch someone in the face, and it was just plain boring for the most part. I was assured the original was better in all respects, but I didn’t go out of my way to see it until tonight, when it played at my beloved New Beverly Cinema as part of their monthly “Grindhouse” festival. I should also note that for the first time ever, I won one of the raffle prizes; I am now the proud owner of a Triple H shirt.

Anyway, whoever told me that the original was better was right on 2/3 of the problems. The sound was fine, and the lead character was certainly more likable. But again, the movie is just damn boring. The kill scenes are delightfully gory, but even those are way too drawn out. At one point, Montag kills two girls by shoving swords down their throat. The crowd is hypnotized to believe that everything is fine. After he finishes, he slowly takes the sword out of the girl’s mouth, then undoes the rope around her left hand, then her right, then does a little bow while the crowd cheers. All of this takes like two minutes of screentime. And then he does the entire thing again with the other girl, taking another couple of minutes with him.

And ALL of the kill scenes are like this! It’s like a moebius strip of a movie: the magic show begins, Montag brings up a volunteer from the audience to verify whatever he’s going to use is real, then he kills a girl on stage while the hypnotized crowd watches, then the girl walks off stage, the show is over, the girl dies, the scene is investigated, our hero and his girl talk about it, sleep together, talk to some cops, and then the whole cycle starts again. You could edit out one “cycle” of the film and no one would ever know. Finally, it breaks the mold a bit for a finale, but that is botched as well since we get the ‘it was all a dream’ bullshit.

Now, to be fair, I still had fun watching the film, because roughly half the crowd thought they were as funny as Mike Nelson, and spent the entire time talking back to the screen. See, on MST3k, it’s scripted, and there’s three guys following the script, so it all works. But in a theater with 300 people, you end up getting off timed comments, people talking over one another, everyone scrambling for dominance. And then of course, some folks don’t want to hear anyone but the people in the movie, so they start yelling “shut up!” and the like. Well, for someone like me, who is relatively quiet, this provides just as much, if not more, of the enjoyment. Some of the comments were funny (during the scene where Montag removed the sword from the girl’s throat, someone yelled “she’s a quart low”, which killed me), but everyone mocking a particularly unfunny comment (or simply yelling at the other people to shut up) was even funnier to me. I really should record the ‘commentary’ the next time I attend a movie there; it really does add a lot to the proceedings. Because honestly, without a group of appreciative folks, there’s no way in hell this one would have retained my interest. Thanks fellas!

Also, the gore scenes ARE pretty great, mainly because they're so ridiculous. The final one, Montag doesn't even seem to be using a weapon, and is simply tearing the girl apart with his bare hands. Splatter at its finest. And I sort of like the "who cares" cheapness of it all: the not-even-trying-to-fool-you fake heads, the near empty sets, the television studio that apparently has NASA connections, etc. I also like how the credit sequence, which is mainly blood and other red things, has red titles as well, so most of them are wholly unreadable. Marvelous.

It’s not reviewed, but 2000 Maniacs was one of the first movies I watched when I began watching one every day. I didn’t care too much for that either (though it was certainly better than this), so maybe I just don’t like Herschell Gordon Lewis much. I’ll give Blood Feast a try at some point, but if that one doesn’t get me, I’m afraid I’ll have to give up trying.

What say you?


Dark Water (2005)

JANUARY 21, 2008


Yes, careful readers of the “Source” listing will notice that I can now add Blu-Ray to my ever expanding (and expensive) home theater options, via the PS3 (which I’ve owned for four days now and have yet to play a game). I have had HD DVD for a year or so, but the increasing lack of studio support isn’t exactly promising, so now I have both just in case. And my inaugural Blu Ray viewing? No, not fucking Dark Water, Christ. Before I even actually bought the player I stopped by a used DVD store and picked up, naturally, the Blu-Ray of Halloween. I’ll talk more about that once I get this Dark Water review out of the way.

As is almost always the case with these movies, I did not see the original first (I think The Eye and/or Tale of Two Sisters will be the first time I watch the remakes AFTER seeing the original). But the differences seem very minute, so I probably won’t bother. Why? Well, the movie isn’t very good, and it’s far from interesting. Yes, once again, a little girl is dead, and her body has been left to rot somewhere far from a cemetery (is ANYONE in the Asian community buried properly???). Naturally, this leads her ghost to come wreak havoc. But unlike the 17 million other movies of this nature, this ghost doesn’t really do anything terrifying. Her power seems limited to... turning the water on, resulting in flooded apartments.

I’m not exaggerating. Literally NOTHING fucking happens in this movie other than plumbing issues. At least the movie delivers on the promise of its title, but for the love of Jebus, can we at least get someone dying of fright in the bathroom or something? No? OK. Instead, we also get lots of scenes that attempt to make us think that perhaps Jennifer Connelly is just imagining things. Well that’s all well and good, but imagining WHAT, exactly? We know the plumbing problems are real because other characters see them, and nothing else happens. Some kids who live in the same building occasionally make lewd comments to her, but that’s hardly the stuff of scariness. It’s Jennifer Connelly for Christ’s sake, who WOULDN’T ogle her???

The cast is so good you gotta wonder what the hell they all signed on for in the first place. Connelly makes sense – she won an Oscar, therefore she must do a shitty horror movie. But John C Reilly, Tim Roth, and Pete Postlethwaite usually have better options, and even if the movie delivered on the horror, they’d mostly be wasted anyway. The only sort-of exception is Roth, who plays the nicest lawyer in film history. He goes out of his way to help Connelly at every turn, and never even hits on her (despite lying and saying he has a family when he doesn’t; or at least, he doesn’t take them to the movies with him). I kept thinking that maybe if the movie WAS all in her head that maybe he was a figment of her imagination, but no. He’s just REALLY NICE.

Then again, there might be some post production shenanigans going on. For starters, Connelly is constantly on the phone talking to a woman we never actually see. These scenes are just a flurry of exposition, which suggests hasty reshoots; with Connelly providing info to the audience from scenes that were removed, done on the cheap without having to hire a new actress. Also, one of the few extra features is a 3 minute piece about the editing choices within a scene that isn’t actually in the film. OK.

So the movie’s not really worth your time, unless you’re a plumber and/or a resident of Roosevelt Island. Connelly looks good (even better in High Def!) but she looks good in movies that are also good, so just watch one of those.

Back to Halloween though: if you had any doubts about the validity of high definition, I can squash them. I’ve seen this movie probably 50 goddamn times and I noticed things I was never able to see before: the pom poms of the cheerleaders in the background when Lynda and Laurie leave school, Michael’s face in the car as he drives past them a few minutes later, etc. Obviously none of these things actually improve the film itself, but just the fact that these pointless little details are now crystal clear should give you an idea of how much better the stuff that IS important will now look. Of course, if you’re the type of person who uses the red and yellow cables that come with your AV components to watch stuff, you won’t care. But for the rest of you, trust me: it’s worth the cost, so long as you’re watching something besides Dark Water.

What say you?


Hellraiser (1987)

JANUARY 20, 2008


Here we have another of those (thankfully) increasingly rare films that I HAVE actually seen before, but so long ago (and only once) that I couldn’t remember a damn thing about it. What’s funny is that both times I have seen Hellraiser it has been more out of an odd obligation than actual interest. The first time (I was like 13) I watched it only because I hadn’t seen it and Fangoria kept talking them up, and now I’m watching it because I have put it upon myself to watch a horror movie every single day of my life. And write about it.

I’ve had the DVD for years (in a collectible tin!) but never really had any interest in watching it until recently, when I read an article about the film’s legacy in Horrorhound magazine. If you haven’t read Horrorhound, you’re not really missing much. It’s well meaning, and like Rue Morgue it covers a lot of different areas of horror, particularly toys (as opposed to the “just films and maybe a few books” Fangoria), but it’s riddled with mistakes and truly horrible grammar, so it comes off as a bad blog in print form, which is a problem when you’re paying 7 bucks to read it as opposed to a blog that is free. Even with my limited knowledge of the film, I noticed a few mistakes in dates, and the author also claims that the film has incestuous overtones between Larry and Kristy, which I don’t see at all (Flowers in the Attic – now THAT’S incestuous daddy-daughter overtones!).

As a kid, I really only liked slasher and zombie horror. Anything else was just sort of boring to me, including this. Now that I am slightly more intelligent (not to mention much less of a snob – I’m even coming around to werewolf movies!) I am happy to say I enjoy the film much more than I did then. The plot isn’t very complex, but it never feels padded, a tricky endeavor (especially for a first time director). It’s still not exactly one of my favorite movies, but I am now interested in re-watching the next two sequels (I’ve never seen any of them more than once with the exception of Bloodline, which is the only one I saw in theaters).

I’m pretty sure there’s a Garbage Pail Kid that looks like this.

There are a few odd problems with the film, however. One is Kristy’s total blindness to her father’s SEVERELY WOUNDED HEAD during the climax. Seriously, his fucking ear looks like charcoal and he has blood pouring from his entire hairline, and she doesn’t seem particularly concerned about this. Kind of dumb. Also, the rate at which Frank regenerates seems a bit off – a few drops of blood (much more than should be dropped from the wound to begin with) are enough to make Frank come back to life, but 3 full bodies later and he’s still not whole? I would have liked to have seen another stage, in which he’s just a skeleton or something. And the Devil guy at the end is just ridiculous.

Otherwise this is a solid film. The makeup effects are PHENOMENAL, even moreso when you consider the low budget (less than a million, which with inflation would be about the same as Halloween’s cost). Andy Robinson is a hoot as well; there’s a scene where he, for no real reason, uses a ‘scary’ voice and says “You want a cookie little girl?” that had me in stitches. And even though it has a relatively low body count (5?) it’s pretty gory and violent. I also like how they don’t explain everything away; not only does it leave the mythology open for sequels, but also the point of the film is sort of a gory, supernatural take on Hitchcockian style themes (obsession, lust, sadomasochism, etc), and spending 10 minutes explaining the origin of Chatterer would take away from that focus.

While I now consider myself a fan of the film (I really didn’t like it as a kid, which is why I never watched it again), I still look forward to the remake. Not only do I think the directors could very well be the saviors of adult horror (if Inside is any indication), but also the new film would spare us Julia’s ridiculous 80s hair:

Jesus. Plus she looks like Bert Schnick.

What say you?


The Killing Floor

JANUARY 19, 2008


I'm not sure what the point is of hiring a fairly well-known actor or actress and giving them nothing to do for the majority of a film, but it makes even LESS sense when you are trying to give your film a twist ending. Such is the case with The Killing Floor, a film which I will have to spoil in the rest of the review. So if you haven't seen it yet, be warned: I am giving away a twist that isn't really all that surprising to anyone who recognizes the cast.

The actress in question here is Shiri Appleby. Maybe not a household name, but certainly recognizable from a variety of roles on both TV and film. She plays Marc Blucas' assistant, and has literally nothing to do in the film's first hour or so except say things like "There's a call for you" and bringing Blucas his mail. So anyone with a rudimentary understanding of movies, casting, etc. will immediately suspect that she is somehow more important than she seems, if not the MOST important figure in the plot against Blucas (which involves old murders, a betrayed friend, and, sigh, real estate shenanigans). And guess what? She is! The whole movie is a setup she (over)planned to get back at Blucas for not reading her short story. The fact that if he DID read the fucking thing would render the entire movie moot is another matter entirely (seriously, she even gives him the damn thing. Had the guy taken the wrong manuscript into the bathroom after taco night, he never would have had any problems down the line). So in order to make this a "twist", they leave her in the background through most of the movie, so I am just sitting there wondering how long it will be until she is revealed to be the killer.

The other problem is that the viewer has to believe that a man wouldn't be interested in Shiri Appleby:

Come on now.

Otherwise it's actually not too bad of a movie. For what it's worth, the plot twist works well in the context of the rest of the film (ironically, maybe this would make a better book), and the acting is good. Even Blucas, who wasn't exactly Olivier on Buffy, manages to make his asshole character fairly sympathetic. The quality was good for what I am pretty sure is some form of digital media (there are no extras of any sort on the disc to help solve this non-mystery). It barely qualifies as horror (though there's a pretty gruesome scene where a character feeds another's remains to a bunch of pigs), but as a thriller it functions on the level it should, and I guess if you have no idea who Shiri Appleby is you might be surprised that her meek character turns out to be the Big Bad.

What say you?


Cloverfield (2008)

JANUARY 18, 2008


How’s this for weird: the main reason I watched Dragon Wars yesterday was because I knew that I would be seeing Cloverfield today, and thus I wanted to see both of the major US cities get destroyed (LA in Dragon, NY in Cloverfield) back to back. But 45 minutes or so into Cloverfield, I discovered another connection: character actor Chris Mulkey (who played the jerk FBI agent in Dragon) popped up as an army general or something to that effect. I like that guy.

But sadly, despite J.J. Abrams’ involvement, Greg Grunberg was nowhere to be seen.

But that’s pretty much my only complaint (Grunberg rules!) about the film, which is otherwise pretty f-ing great. It’s nice and short (it could even be shorter, see below), and while I wasn’t exactly enamored by all of the characters, director Matt Reeves and writer Drew Goddard DO invest enough time into their leads so that you care about them during what is essentially a 70 minute nonstop chase scene. Also, the lead girl, Odette Yustman, is ridiculously hot, which helps sell the basic narrative thrust of the film (our heroes’ attempts to rescue her out of the city, which is being demolished by the government just as much, if not more than, the monster). I’d grab my unlimited-battery and incredibly-professional-looking-for-a-consumer camera and run around Manhattan while a 30 story monster knocked everything down around me to help her too; probably get mad quality time afterwards.

Like I said though, the film could be a bit shorter, because they sort of go overboard with how much these average looking hipsters can survive in a short time. I don’t want to spoil anything, but let’s just say that there are two points before the ending where the movie could have conceivably ended, and with each “addition” you are required to put a little too much of your disbelief on hold. Considering that the whole film hinges on the “reality” presentation of this event, it’s a little strange that they expect you to believe regular people can survive 2.5 incredibly violent acts (sorry for slight spoiler, I’ve been trying to figure out a way to word it for like 10 min without spoiling anything and gave up).

Nerds will enjoy the film too, there are many video game references (I SWEAR I heard the army refer using a “Hammer of Dawn” to take out the monster) and a strange moment involving someone’s knowledge of Superman. It’s also pretty funny at times; you might THINK laughing at the idea of an immolated homeless person would never be in the cards, but there it is.

The monster itself is pretty sweet looking, and comparisons to the monsters seen at the end of The Mist are valid. And yes, the big monster spawns little monsters, but don’t let memories of the atrocious 1998 Godzilla cloud your brain – these fuckers are nasty and scary. I’m actually surprised that this got away with a PG-13; not that it’s particularly violent, but there are 2 or 3 scenes that are so INTENSE, something the MPAA has given R ratings for in the past. I actually kind of would have preferred an R rating; it seems a bit odd that a bunch of 25-30 year olds would watch the Statue of Liberty’s head roll down the street and not yell “WHAT THE FUCK?!?!?!”

I was also very impressed with the sound on this film. I saw it at the Mann’s Grauman’s Chinese, which is a HUGE theater without stadium seating, and the floor was rumbling throughout, a la IMAX. Definitely see this one at a THX theater if you can; the sound is worth the admission alone (can’t wait for the HD DVD, or, more than likely, sigh, BluRay). However, do NOT bother waiting til the end of the credits, unless you really like knowing a film’s MPAA number. Strangely, a good 80% of the crowd waited in their seats; it just seemed like the kind of movie that would offer an after credits epilogue. But nope, nothing. So leave, beat traffic.

I should point out how disappointed I was that Paramount did not offer a new Iron Man trailer OR an Indiana Jones 4 teaser, at least not at my screening. We just got a Star Trek teaser that didn’t even offer a full image of the Enterprise, only some guys welding it. Exciting. Hilariously, the fucking annoying dipshit in front of me got super excited once the words “Star Trek” appeared on screen. Big fan, you’d think, right? But he sat motionless through “A JJ Abrams film”, the legendary music, and a voiceover saying “Space, the final frontier.” I’m not a Trekkie by any stretch of the imagination and even I knew what it was long before him. Dumbass.

And if you aren't yet convinced this one is worth your time and money - I STAYED AWAKE throughout the entire film, which was a midnight screening. I can't even remember the last time I went to a movie that started after 9 pm that I never dozed for even a minute. Monsters eating hipsters > borderline narcolepsy.

What say you?


Dragon Wars

JANUARY 17, 2008


I really wanted to go see the bafflingly titled Dragon Wars: D-War in theaters, but I never got the chance. A big destructive monster movie will always play better in a theater than at home, but oh well. However, I will note that had I seen the film in theaters, I wouldn’t have rented it, and thus I would have gone longer without using my subwoofer, which I realized had been switched off (I got suspicious when an explosion went off in the movie and it sounded very flat). Once I turned it back on, I discovered that this movie has one of the best surround tracks I’ve heard in a while, so thanks!

But like I said, if I had seen it before, I wouldn’t have rented it, because it’s just not very good. The monster action is fine, and it’s nice to see downtown Los Angeles get destroyed for once AS Los Angeles, and not Manhattan or just some generic city (like in Transformers). When they fake NY or whatever, they always have to keep the shots close to prevent distinguishing marks from giving away the location, but that’s not the case here – during the big attack there are a few aerial shots that show the surrounding mountains, Hollywood, etc.

Sadly, the scenes that AREN’T about giant snake monsters whaling on each other are among the dumbest in recent movie memory. The main guy (Max from Roswell) can’t act worth a shit, and the female lead isn’t much better. He plays a reporter who has the most access I’ve ever seen in a film; at one point a nurse totally breaks patient confidentiality once she discovers he is press. Worse, they discover that they are the reincarnations of some sort of Korean spirit or whatever, and that the dragons are after them, and a whole bunch of other mystical mumbo jumbo, and never ONCE do they question it! If Robert Forster sat down next to me and told me that I had to meet a girl named Sarah and keep her from the evil Baraki and Yoo Gi Ho so that she could become the Good Moogi before she turned 20, I’d punch him right in the fucking face. Mainly for being in Rise: Blood Hunter, but also because what he just told me made no sense whatsoever. But yet, everyone buys it, no questions asked. Even Roswell guy’s friend, who is played by Darryl from The Office; the character you would expect to be like “you’re crazy!” is totally fine with all this nonsense. In fact, he’s more incredulous to Roswell’s request to simply find the girl than he is to all the stuff involving dragons and the like. Also, his character disappears from the film TWICE and no one seems to care either time.

Where’s Shang Tsung?

The movie offers some highlights though. Not only does it have the rare “Flashback inside a flashback” scene (actually a lengthy sequence), but even THAT has a flashback built into it. Triple flashback!!! And the human villains sound much like Jabba the Hutt when they talk, so that’s nice. Steve Jablonsky delivers another good score (3 for 3 in 2007 – I think I’ll forgive him for The Island now), and for the most part, the effects are quite good. There’s really some bad compositing during the finale though, which is odd because it’s just a sky and wasteland type thing (giant snake wrapped around an LA skyscraper – OK; but the same snake flying around the Outworld looks fake?). Also, Chris Mulkey is in it.

And hey, no one watches these movies for the story. It delivers on the monster action, so in that regard it works. I just wish it wasn’t SO dumb in between.

What say you?


Werewolf: The Devil's Hound

JANUARY 16, 2008


I’ve just about had it up to here with Lion’s Gate’s blatant false advertising. While the non-zombie movie Rise of the Dead turned out to be so outstandingly fucked up that I was OK with the ruse, I am pretty annoyed that Werewolf: The Devil’s Hound is a goofy comedy and not the “gory and intense” movie the trailer tried to sell it as. Granted, the movie sucks either way, but they can at least sell it as a comedy if that’s what it actually is; I laugh at the notion that someone decides not to rent it because they think it will be too scary for them.

It seems that Connecticut is the bane of my existence. I’ve been in a sort of Cold War with the state for the past decade. The first time I ever drove through it, I got a speeding ticket for going, no lie, 68 in a 65. 240 bucks. A few years later I had a blowout courtesy of a rock in the road, and spent a good hour and a half on the side of the highway (no breakdown lane) waiting for AAA. Last month I was stranded there during a snowstorm and got another ticket for parking on the street during a storm (due to the fact that no off street parking was provided in the area I was in). Their drivers are also particularly bad; I have witnessed several driving 55 in the fast lane only to suddenly dart over 4 lanes to take an exit. So the fact that this movie seemingly revels in its CT origins didn’t help me get over the fact that this werewolf movie was more interested in an Eddie Deezen wannabe “hilariously” breaking props (the movie actually takes place in a movie pyrotechnics workshop) than telling an original story or having any sort of suspense.

Of course, even as a comedy the film is an utter failure, since it’s not funny, at least not to me, a man who doesn’t know the filmmakers or cast. Yes, I got a very strong sense that quite a few of the “comedic” moments are probably only funny to the filmmakers and their friends. I can’t quite explain it, but they just have that feel. They’re certainly not funny, at any rate. Why would a grown man pass the time in his own working location by dressing up as a ghost, running around and jumping off chairs? Why “Kwan with a K” speaking in horrendously matched German accented voice over during the finale? Why is the father kidnapped by UFOs at the end (complete with an anal probe joke – straight out of 1985!)? It’s not funny, it serves no storytelling purpose... it’s just dumb. But I’m sure they think it’s hilarious.

So is there anything positive to say about it? Sure. For an obviously WAY low budget affair, most of the effects (visual or practical) are decent, though the blood looks oddly pink in one scene. And the camerawork, while wholly ripped off from Evil Dead 2 and Shaun of the Dead, is frenetic, making the more boring scenes at least somewhat interesting to watch. Had it been shot on film instead of ugly DV (hopefully a budgetary limitation and not a personal choice) this would actually be a decent looking movie throughout (the script would still be worth less than piss, but hey).

Incidentally, the two funniest moments in the film (to me anyway) were wholly unintentional. In one, our Sam Rockwell-y hero goes to investigate a banging door. This is a horror movie staple, the door is usually an old screen door or something, banging in the wind. But here, the door is in fact a giant metal factory door, and it swings back and forth so unnaturally, I’m surprised they didn’t just show us the rope or guy actually making it move for another “joke”. In the other, a cop is discussing a victim who he believes has been run over, suggesting that the train “might have run her over a couple times”. Did it back up?

There’s only one special feature really, which is about the non-memorable music in the film. I guess if you liked the music it might be interesting. There’s also a commentary track which I shut off after 10 minutes, because it was boring as hell; the most interesting thing they divulged in that time is that the lead actor parted his hair differently in one shot (plus they say that Argento, Carpenter, and Romero were influences; none of which are even remotely apparent). They also claim that the film is part documentary simply because the shooting location really WAS a fireworks factory, but they don’t seem to be joking.

What say you?


Halloween: Unrated Director's Cut (2007)

JANUARY 15, 2008


While HMAD sort of got ‘famous’ for posting a list of all the differences between the “workprint” and theatrical versions of Rob Zombie’s Halloween, I never actually reviewed that version. And I kind of feel bad about that, because in all honesty, it was a much better film in that form. It still suffered from major problems, but many of the things I disliked in the theatrical version were corrected, or at least improved, in the original version. With that in mind, I was actually looking forward to Rob’s official “Director’s Cut”, which was issued on DVD alongside the theatrical. But as it turns out, this version is, astonishingly enough, the WORST of the three.

Luckily, some of the “workprint” stuff has been re-inserted in the film, such as Michael following Laurie home after school (the only sort of “stalking” scene of merit in the entire film) and another scene with Udo Kier, rendering his cameo slightly less jarring. So folks who never saw the workprint version sort of luck out in these regard, as these scenes help the film. Unfortunately, Rob chose to go back to the original, awful version of Michael’s escape, which involves raping a female inmate and more general redneckery. The theatrical version (Michael kills a bunch of cameos, er, guards during a transfer) isn’t all that much better, but it’s at least consistent with the film’s ideas. This version sort of sets up Michael as a sympathetic antihero, who escaped because it was convenient at the time. But making the whole thing even STUPIDER, this version also has the Danny Trejo death scene (not in the workprint), which means Michael just sort of hung around the hospital long after he could have escaped so he could kill the film’s only sympathetic character. Fine, whatever.

Some stuff in this version wasn’t in either of the previous cuts (see the updated list for a fullish rundown of changes), but most of it is sort of superfluous, like an extra asylum “interview” in which no one speaks. One thing of note is some grainy super 16 footage, presumably shot by Loomis, of young Michael in a mask. During these quick inserts (there’s like 3 or 4 sprinkled into the asylum sequence), Loomis explains a bit about all of the masks Michael made, and these bits also help clarify how much time has passed. The only other “new” addition of note is a quick bit during the finale that proves that Loomis HAS in fact survived his injuries. This struck me as odd – when I interviewed Rob for the DVD release I asked if Loomis survived or not and he said that’s up to the producers. But now it’s pretty obvious he lives – a few minutes after Michael squishes his head, Loomis grabs at Michael from the floor, and then Michael just sort of brushes him off. While it’s sort of an OK addition, it also makes the brutally bad continuity error of Loomis’ head injuries all the more apparent, so if it’s NOT there to help explain that Loomis is indeed alive, why bother putting it in at all? Again, whatever.

Speaking of the ending, this version has the theatrical ending (though I never noticed before, you can see an out of focus cop, possibly Brackett, in the background while Loomis talks; a remnant of the previous, and superior ending). This ending is not only insanely overlong (Michael smashes the ceiling for what seems like a full 5 minutes), but it also once again puts the focus on Laurie, who is a non-character in the remake. She doesn’t appear until an hour into the film, and even then she’s not exactly front and center for the most part. If not for the fact that the NAME “Laurie Strode” is important to the Halloween legacy, the film gives absolutely no reason for us to really care about her any more than her annoying friends (or anyone else in the movie who is actually allowed more than one scene). In the workprint version, the film is more clearly about Michael and Loomis, but in the theatrical (and now, this “definitive”) cuts, the movie is about Michael and Loomis for one half, and Michael and Laurie for another.

A couple of the editing decisions that were made for the theatrical release remain correct. The truly stupid scene from the workprint where Lynda pours a drink all over a female classmate is nowhere to be seen, and Rob was wise to keep in the “color spectrum” scene that was absent from the workprint. Not that it’s a particular highlight of the film, but it lengthens the asylum stuff, which is not only the best segment of the film but also delays the point in time where Michael escapes, at which point all three versions of the film fall apart (to differing degrees).

Rob’s commentary isn’t particularly enlightening; he mentions the reshoots on occasion but doesn’t quite go into detail about them, nor does he pull a Michael Bay and start going off on the public reception (listen to the commentary for The Island – all of a sudden Bay begins ranting and raving about the box office gross, it’s fucking amazing). Instead, he just sort of discusses where each scene was shot and tells some humorous anecdotes about a few of the actors (apparently Danny Trejo didn’t like that he looked “like a bitch” as he was drowned). So I was a bit disappointed; I would have liked to have heard him be a bit defensive and talk about the genesis of his ideas. But still, I like listening to Rob speak, even if I disagree with some of his choices, and frankly I’d much rather listen to him talk about Pasadena shooting locations than Laurie talk about being molested by the hardware store owner.

So oh well. The last chance the movie had at working, but it ends up being the least effective. Like I’ve said all along, I wasn’t on the “hate” train with this movie; I like a lot of remakes and I like Rob’s other films. And there are a few scenes that I really enjoy, plus there are two good jump scares. But overall it just doesn’t work for me. Can’t say I haven’t tried – this makes the 6th time I have watched the film in some form (7 if you count the commentary viewing), which is more of a chance than I have given any other movie in history that I’ve disliked (and 7 more chances than most of the film’s hardcore detractors ever gave it). I even bought the damn thing; this wasn't a studio freebie (gee, wonder why they didn't want to give me one for free?). Let’s move on, shall we?

What say you?


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